By Dr Oun Prakash with Praveen Chopra
What is naturopathy and how does it work? Here, a seasoned practitioner makes a case for naturopathy’s focus on eliminating the cause and not not merely the symptoms of the malaise.
Is nature cure (also called natural hygiene by purists, and naturopathy by ordinary folks) Indian or is it an import from the West? Who founded it and when? These questions are irrelevant. You should only ask three questions: 1. What’s happening in my body right now? 2. Why is it happening? 3. What can nature cure treatment do for me?
Answers to these three questions will determine the right medical system for you. Most pathies concur that disease is caused by bacteria. But what gives birth to those bacteria? Take the case of malaria. Doctors say it is caused by a certain kind of mosquito. True, but its presence in our surrounding is caused by the appearance of stagnant water. So why not eliminate that?
Nature cure says that bacteria or viruses do not cause the disease; instead they appear when the disease-causing toxins and impurities have accumulated in the body. They are scavengers, just like flies and mosquitoes which hover over a pile of garbage. The correct sequence of events comes up in the case of typhoid, where the bacilli actually show up in diagnostic tests as late as 15 days after the patient reports the symptoms. Worse, for as long as two months after the patient has recovered, the typhoid bacilli stay in the blood. If they had caused the disease, they can strike again. Whatever the cause-bacteria or the impurities-nature cure says that remove the toxins and impurities from the system and you will disallow the disease from striking.
Modern medicine prescribes antibiotics, of which even the current generation are not selective enough. They kill both the scavenger bacteria and the healthy bacteria and biochemicals. Medicine men know that antibiotics will, for example, hamper digestion, so they routinely add on another medicine to help digestion.
These days, natural hygienists are not against modern diagnostic tools and tests. In fact they welcome it because it helps them to gather useful knowledge about what is happening in the body. For example, in the case of stones, it will help us if we know where exactly the stones are located, size and number. The current thinking in nature cure circles (as against the opinion of Mahatma Gandhi, who played a big role in promoting this system in India), is to welcome help from diagnostic tests. The belief is also growing that naturopaths’ education must include adequate anatomy and physiology.
Our departure point with allopaths is only in the management of the disease. While they suggest killing the enemy, nature cure goes further and deeper and recommends eradicating the cause that produces the enemy. The physical cause is visible, but the efficient cause usually is not manifest – as in the case of the pot, the physical cause, clay, is visible, but the efficient cause, potter, is behind the scenes.
The efficient cause in the case of disease are our habits – which, if wrong, will keep on pecking like a woodpecker till it eventually scoops out a big hole. For example, if someone regularly sleeps with his pillow side of the bed at a lower level than the other end, he is bound to develop ulcers and acidity. It is not metaphysical but physical- certain digestion processes are helped by gravity, aided by gentle slope down from the head to the toes.
Since each person is different, the efficient cause for each person is also different, which is why it manifests in the form of different diseases – psoriasis for one and arthritis for another. Take the case of a 55-year-old woman whose insomnia stubbornly refused to go even after I gave the regulation nature cure course. To find out the efficient cause, I inquired about her habits, and she said she religiously goes every Sunday to her guruji ka satsang. Eureka! I said to myself. The satsang every Sunday was dinning into her head that her 55 years of life of moh-maya (worldly ways) was a waste, she was no better than an animal. Coming back home, she would feel guilty and demoralized. As the week wore on, she would recover, only to be taken on the same old guilt trip the next Sunday. She was angry with herself – the insomnia was only a physical symptom. I forbade her from going anywhere near her guru, prohibited her from watching even Aastha kind of TV channels, and put her on a daily dose of Shammi Kapoor’s old yahoo movies. Within a month, she got well.
Our saints of yore have always maintained that this very body is the temple of God. So why not keep this temple clean and cobweb-free?
Lately, I have encountered many cancer patients who insist that their diet is healthy, they have been regularly practicing yoga and pranayam, and yet are accursed with the deadly disease. When I inquired, I understood that they were trying to ape gods and great men by suppressing their natural instincts and self-sacrificing for the sake of others. The body takes its cues from the mind. And in the case of suppression, over a period of time, the body gets afflicted with cancer. In such cases, I recommend release, release of suppressed energy. This can be accomplished in various ways: by punching the boxer’s bag, pouring out your woes on paper as a story, writing out a plaintive missive to your family, boss, or even God, before burning it, or sitting alone and crying your heart out.
A short but incisive set of questions is all that is required to find out what is causing a person stress or suppression. You can then decide on and suggest modes of release.
So whether the cause is physical or efficient, there is something present like toxins which should be removed and something which is deficient like vitality or iron or amino acids, which should be restored. Nature cure believes in handling the first task first, that is removing what should not be there, before putting in what needs to be there. So the turn of nutrition/supplements (herbs/foods that heal) comes after cleansing. Take vitamins and minerals. In deficient conditions, modern medicine prescribes copious quantities of the chemical-based, lab-produced tablets, most of which is rejected by the body. It is wiser to have natural, organic supplements, like aloe vera, spirulina or B-Propilis (made from the white layer on the honey bees’ hives, which is an excellent alternative to antibiotics). Some of these supplements come in packs, so are bound to have used some preservatives, but never mind that.
First-time patients coming to nature cure invariably ask: ‘How can I get well without medicine?’ To bolster their belief in nature cure I talk about the automobile: if there is a scratch, it needs a coat of paint, yes. But a car is only an inanimate object, it doesn’t have the self-corrective mechanism of living beings. Our body is a living organism. We have all seen wounds heal by themselves; even broken bones get rejoined given time. Outside measures – whether of nature cure or ayurveda or allopathy – can aid in creating the right conditions where this healing can take place, of which the body is capable by itself, and self-corrective, homeostasis process can go on unhindered.
Nature cure practitioners rightly try to impress upon patients the need to take responsibility for one’s health. Blaming others (the family cook, McDonalds or cola companies) is not going to get you anywhere. Sadly, however, everywhere else, the tendency is to absolve the patient of all responsibility. Blame it on air pollution, contaminants in the food chain, on the sexual partner who gave you AIDS, and so on. If I don’t even accept my mistake, how am I going to take steps to mend my ways? Surely, if there is dust in your neighborhood, you need to sweep clean the area, but you should also develop enough immunity to keep asthma at bay?
Nature cure practitioners could seem to be obsessed with internal body hygiene but that is not without a reason. Take morning walks, which your friendly neighborhood doctor will promptly recommend these days. It is a good substitute for exercise but if you haven’t been to the toilet before your walk, it may be counterproductive. Did you know that yoga teachers have declared the shirshasana (the king of asanas) persona non-grata and why? Because, with the amount of toxins present in the average person’s body, gravity will push them in the head region, and shirshasana can then do more harm than good.
Patients and allopaths alike ask us: ‘You are treating for knee pain, why are you concerned with the condition of the bowels?’ This is again a result of the Newtonian, mechanistic thinking wrongly applied to affairs of the human system. In the case of a car, yes, if the tyre is punctured, you need to fix that and not tinker with the gear-box. But the living body is one whole continuum, every part and organ is connected with all the others. The same patients and doctors who question our methods don’t think twice before swallowing a tablet for headache, which goes into the stomach and the blood-stream, and not injecting the medicine into the head or the brain for better precision.
Taking the car tyre analogy further, if you don’t fix it soon enough and keep driving the car, the entire tube inside can tear and the tyre itself will be damaged. Similarly, not adequately attending to an acute disease like cold and fever (or suppressing it by drugs) can lead to chronic diseases. Moreover, in the army the maintenance/service regimen for vehicles is followed so strictly that the possibility of a tyre burst is almost eliminated. Saying that somebody suddenly died of a stroke or some such thing shows ignorance. No disease, certainly not a fatal one, develops overnight. So if your lifestyle is not perfectly healthy, I recommend people to visit a nature cure clinic for a few days every few months, or still better, once a month for routine cleansing for servicing and maintenance.
The naturopaths’ refrain is: ‘The body is one, the cause of disease is one, and the cure is also one.’
In healing, self-belief is very important. So, modern medicine is doing a disservice by declaring many diseases as non-curable, be it diabetes, nephritis, high blood pressure, cancer or AIDS. Naturopaths are usually ready to treat any disease at any stage-the least one can aim for in the last stages of the terminal disease is to alleviate pain.
Nature cure is not immune from the winds of change in the medical world-the slow but sure movement towards integrated medicine. The influence of ayurveda is discernible in naturopathy practice, with many of us appropriating some of the better known herbs like neem, brahmi, ashvagandha, kashni, etc, which are easily available with the grocer. For instant relief from pain, naturopaths also employ acupressure, magnet therapy, even reiki and pranic healing. Yoga, another non-drug system, of course, is part and parcel of nature cure.
A practising naturopath, Dr Oum Prakash ‘Oum’
runs a nature cure clinic in DLF, Gurgaon.
Contact: email: email@example.com,
Phone: (0124) 5046209
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